Today Kassandra recounts her experience working at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is a branch of the Small Business Administration. The SBDC is not only a wonderful organization to work for they also provide a number of valuable resources for small business owners. — Alex
Everyone remembers their first kiss, their first car, and their first job. When I think about these things I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Yes, I do that with my first professional job, too! I worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). It’s actually the reason why I have this sweet gig with DigiSavvy doing my marketing thang. I worked at the SBDC for the first two years at the start of my business career and learned about all the awesome services and resources that they have — it’s how Alex and I connected, in fact.
What is the Small Business Development Center? I’m sure you guessed it but it has to do something with Small Businesses… They’re actually a government and grant-funded organization that serves as a FREE (yes, free) service for people who want to start or grow their own small business. They’re a resource where people can receive businesses advice regardless of what their situation is. They have consultants that are considered black belts in business and are there to offer advice and guidance for the low price of free-fifty-free!
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Trust me, when I worked there the #1 question I would always get was, “How can this be free? Are you sure there aren’t fees that I have to pay for? What’s the catch?” I know most of you guys don’t know me personally, but I’m going to ask you to trust me on this one. The consulting services are free as can be. The reason it is possible is due to the U.S. government seeing the importance of providing services to small business owners to get advice. Small businesses are important because they are the backbone of the U.S. and help the community develop by creating jobs. So the government created a branch called the Small Business Administration, and that’s where the SBDC falls under. They would always say that the Small Business Development Centers are the boots on the ground, taking care of the day to day activities while the Small Business Administration were the decision makers and helped guide business owners on where to go to get help.
As small business owners, there are so many questions that can discourage you from starting or continuing. The way the SBDC helps is having consultants in a variety of fields such as marketing, acquisitions, government contracts, business plans, small business loans, and the list goes on and on depending on where you’re located. At the University of La Verne SBDC we have three consultants; Alex who focuses on marketing strategy and website development, Mr. Cota who focuses on government contracts and small business certifications, and Mr. Geffen who focuses on business starts, business acquisitions… and really anything to help run a successful business.
Working at the SBDC for two years I saw the benefits that clients would rave about, but I also saw some of the frustrations that they would have.
To start off, it’s free. You are already paying for it with your tax dollars so get your money’s worth! Next, you build a relationship with your consultant and can schedule an appointment when you need to meet with them again. Lastly, they are your biggest supporters. If you are passionate and determined to start and grow a business, they will do everything they can to help you get where you need to go, and if they don’t have the resources to help you they reach out to their local partners to find the resources you need.
Another service the SBDC’s offer is free to low cost workshops to learn about different areas of business and the tools and trips the experienced speakers would share. Some of the speakers that come out are AMAZING! At our center we had people speak on social media changes for marketing, regulations that all small business owners should know, and not to mention the times where we have people from Facebook and Google come out and teach business owners how to grow online.
One of the frustrations that I had found most common for clients at the SBDC is that the consultants don’t do the work for them. An example of this is website development with Alex. A lot of the clients would walk in and expect him to build and fix all the problems for you, but that’s not what the SBDC is about. Consultants are there to CONSULT you, not do for you, and a lot of people get frustrated with the SBDC consultants telling them what to do and would rather them fix it there and then. The consultants do their best to help you but can only give you the tools to do it for yourself.
The best things working there was seeing clients come in and tell us about where their business is. The successes and the downfalls were both interesting to me and showed me how each business is so unique. It’s inspiring to see everyone with the dream of starting and owning their own business. There were clients coming in and out of the office always seeking more knowledge on how to get better and would move their schedules around to make sure that the consulting time was beneficial for their growth. Seeing some of the most successful small businesses come in shocked me at first, because I thought they had it figured out. In reality, it showed me that not everyone is going to know what to do and that even the most experienced people ask for opinions and guidance.
Looking back, I learned a lot at the SBDC and it shaped me in how I look at businesses/life.
- You can’t know everything and you aren’t expected to
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you aren’t bugging them
- Follow your passions and make of it what you want
- You have to work hard for your dreams, no one else can do it for you
- Business is all about credits and debits, you get what you put in (Usually)
And with this, I would like to conclude and say if you are a small business owner or thinking of starting a business, consult with your local SBDC consultant and see how they can help guide you. You aren’t alone in this process! There are people who are paid to help you when you need a hand.
Best of luck!